As easy as breathing, the in and out rhythm, there and back again, over and over. Or swinging: parents push on the playground and then the children learn that by pumping their legs they can get as high as they can, higher and higher. Until finally the older ones they're ejecting, jumping at the highest point of the arc to see who can get the farthest, flying off into space until gravity brings them down with a dull thud in the wood chips.
We're entering the dark side of the year, the diastole half of the beat of life, when the short days and long nights give rise to reflective taking of bearings and anxiety about the end game. The forest looks naked but somehow more mysterious, the grey hardwoods like clouds mingling in a valley with the deep green pines, all suffused with mists. I'm always hungrier, my dinners suffering a lack of portion control that I justify as seasonally driven. I crave meats and thick, rich sauces. This is the animal part of the brain, remembering shortfall, famine, scarcity and cold. As we evolved we began to hoard other prizes, and now, when hardship means having an old car and losing face in the parking lot, we wonder how to strike the right balance. George Bush promised we fulfilled duty when we shopped, and we all know the malls fill up this time of year. But call it residual guilt, there is a gnawing sense that we must be called to do more. Produce or perish. Those who believe in eternity want to produce a higher self through prayer or good deeds, those who don't still believe that work is the lot of all humanity. My tenant, Chris, has been out of work since July. He was a fork lift driver with MacLanes, the warehouse chain that handles all the Walmart traffic in northern New England. I saw him yesterday when he came over and he'd grown a belly and said he was hoping to be taken back on for some seasonal shifts.
"It must be tough," I said. God knows I've been there before.
"Oh, yeah. I'm looking forward to having a purpose," he said.
Unemployment, like the winter, has a rise and fall. If only we knew how to strike the right balance, as easy as breathing, or children swinging.